Grammar

VTARI + VTARI + SURU (たり...たりする)


The structure “verb1 in the TARI form + verb2 in the TARI form + SURU” is used to express a sequence of two or three actions that have no chronological relationship between them. This structure suggests that the list is not exhaustive, that other actions could complete the statement.

To build this structure, we use the -TARI form. Each verb listed ends with (っ)た, (ん)だ or (い)た, depending on the type of verb. Finally, after the last verb, する is added (します to the form of politeness).

(ひま)(とき)音楽(おんがく)()いたりテレビ()たり小説(しょうせつ)()んだりします
Hima na toki ni wa ongaku o kiitari, terebi o mitari, shousetsu o yondari shimasu.
During my spare time, I listen to music, I watch TV, and I read books (among other things).

It should be noted that the subject of each action listed remains the same. But it’s perfectly possible to have different subjects. The same sentence in the past would be:

(ひま)(とき)音楽(おんがく)()いたりテレビ()たり小説(しょうせつ)()んだりしました
Hima na toki ni wa ongaku o kiitari, terebi o mitari, shousetsu o yondari shimashita.
During my spare time, I listened to music, I watched TV, and I read books (among other things).

In this structure, only する takes the negative/affirmative form, in the present or in the past tense. But the whole sentence carries the tense and form of する. In other words, if する is in the past tense, all the other verbs must be understood in the past in the same manner.

Here is respectively an example in the negative form, and another in the negative form of the past:

(ひま)(とき)音楽(おんがく)()いたりテレビ()たり小説(しょうせつ)()んだりしません
Hima na toki ni wa ongaku o kiitari, terebi o mitari, shousetsu o yondari shimasen.
During my spare time, I do not do things like listening to music, watching TV, or reading books.

(ひま)(とき)音楽(おんがく)()いたりテレビ()たり小説(しょうせつ)()んだりしませんでした
Hima na toki ni wa ongaku o kiitari, terebi o mitari, shousetsu o yondari shimasen deshita.
During my spare time, I did not do things like listening to music, watching TV, or reading books.

This construction is also used with adjectives. Use かったり for the adjectives in い, and だったり for those in な.

数学(すうがく)簡単(かんたん)だったり複雑(ふくざつ)だったりします
Suugaku wa kantan dattari, fukuzatsu dattari shimasu.
Mathematics sometimes is simple, sometimes it’s complicated (among other things).

学費(がくひ)大学(だいがく)よって(たか)かったり(やす)かったりします
Gakuhi wa daigaku ni yotte, takakattari, yasukattari shimasu.
The registration fees are sometimes expensive, sometimes cheap depending on the universities. 


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